Triathletes take on Donner Lake |

Triathletes take on Donner Lake

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunSteven Sexton of Davis rides down Old Highway 40 to the transition area during the 26th annual Donner Lake Triathlon on Sunday. Sexton, 25, won for the second straight year with a time of 2:08:11.

Rarely are so many people so pumped up before 8 in the morning. This past weekend was an exception, however ” always is when the Donner Lake Triathlon takes over West End Beach.

Sunday marked that time of year, when some 1,000 triathletes converge on Donner Lake to compete in one of the oldest events of its kind in the country, now in its 26th year.

“I’m hooked now,” Truckee’s Matt Gelso, 18, said after dashing across the finish line at West End Beach and leaping into the Summit Creek inlet for a cool-down. “I have to do this every year now.”

The triathlon was a first for Gelso, a 2006 Truckee High graduate who turns 19 on Wednesday. Considering his athletic resume ” Gelso is a top contender on the University of Colorado Nordic ski team as well as a member of the U.S. Nordic team ” his first-place finish in his age group and sixth-place overall in two hours, 19 minutes and 32 seconds should come as no surprise.

“I’ve never done a triathlon before. It was pretty fun,” Gelso said, adding that the final mile and a half of the run around Donner Lake felt like it “dragged on forever.”

That’s because the run, at 6.5 miles, followed a 0.9-mile swim around a buoyed course and a 24.8-mile bike ride up Old Highway 40, paralleling Interstate 80 west to the Kingvale area and back.

Steven Sexton of Davis outdistanced the men’s field for the second consecutive year, finishing in 2:08:11 ” two minute off his record-setting time a year ago of 2:06:04.

Asked how he felt after plopping down on an ice chest for a rest, the 25-year-old managed to utter “tired and hot” between laboring breaths.

“It was a good race,” Sexton said upon catching his wind, noting that he had not run that far in six weeks due to a leg injury. “The only thing you can do is go as hard as you can the whole time.”

Sexton was followed by 41-year-old Scott Young of Reno, who finished in 2:12:10, and Michael Ingardia, 37 of Sunnyvale (2:15:53). Spencer Fine, a 32-year-old from Sacramento, was fourth overall in 2:18:06 and 29-year-old Adam Zastrow of Sacramento placed fifth in 2:18:17.

Perennial contender Elizabeth Lyles, 29 of Reno, won the women’s overall in 2:25:02, finishing more than two minutes ahead of 45-year-old Holly Nybo of Portola Valley (2:27:08). Lyles said the win was more gratifying after finishing runner-up the past three years.

“This was the best one,” she said. “This year I had to come out and win.”

Truckee’s Shannon Rahlves, 32, placed fourth overall in 2:32:54, a hair behind Reno’s Lynice Anderson, 39 (2:32:37).

Rahlves, the sister of retired U.S. Alpine skier Daron Rahlves ” who was on hand to cheer for her during the run portion ” competed in both the sprint and the longer international triathlon.

“It was interesting,” she said of squeezing two races into one morning. “It was fun, but I wasn’t even planning on it. I was just going to do the sprint.”

After blowing away the women’s field in the sprint with a time of 42:20 ” the next-closest woman was Janice Brod, 37, in 49:19 ” Rahlves sprinted past the finish line straight to the transition area to begin the international triathlon.

Carlo Facchino of San Jose also had a busy weekend of racing. Just one day after completing all 129 miles of the Tour of the California Alps, also known as the Death Ride in Alpine County, the 32-year-old posted an impressive finish in 2:25:19.

“Actually, I feel pretty good,” Facchino said in the finish tent. “Tomorrow I’ll be hurting, though.”

The shorter sprint triathlon sent competitors on a quarter-mile swim, followed by a six-mile bike ride up Old Highway 40 and a two-mile run back to the finish.

Longtime competitor Michael Smith, 43 of Santa Barbara, took the top spot overall in the sprint in 38 minutes and 37 seconds.

Brian Fong, a 50-year-old from Sherman Oaks, was second overall in 42:20, followed by Tim High, 37 of Tahoe City (45:01), Brad Genovese, 23 of Laguna Niguel (45:08), and Daniel Weintraub, 46 of Sacramento (45:12).

In the women’s race, Christy Murphy, 37, placed third behind Rahlves and Brod in 50:47. Patricia Hickson, 28 of South Lake Tahoe, finished in 52:46, and Tina Lount-Pretre, 40 of Woodside, completed the sprint in 52:55 to round out the top five woman overall.

For complete results from the 26th annual Donner Lake Triathlon, visit

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